Pirates demand ransom for Spanish boat

Pirates who seized a Spanish tuna fishing boat off Somalia have demanded a ransom of more than 2.5 million euros for the release of the vessel and its 36 crew.

The hijackers have also said they will not negotiate with Spanish authorities until two of their gang on trial in Madrid are freed.

The Alakrana disappeared after being overrun by pirates two weeks ago. The Spanish navy arrested two men in the area around the same.

They were transferred to Madrid and yesterday appeared in court on charges of illegal detention and armed robbery.

Prosecuting piracy cases in the West has been problematic. Many suspects have avoided trial because of doubts over
the jurisdiction of where they were captured.
or Western governments’ fears the accused will try to claim asylum.


French naval vessel repels Somali pirates

Somali pirates in two small boats bit off more than they could chew when they attacked the French navy. They apparently mistook the supply and command ship La Somme for a harmless cargo vessel and tried to board her after opening fire with AK47s.

euronews channel-French military spokesman, Rear Admiral Christophe Prazuck explained what happened:

“The pirates were shooting, but to my knowledge there was no firing back from the crew of La Somme. But the strong intention to chase them away was enough to stop them after about an hour.”

No one was injured in the attack that took place almost 500 kilometers off the Somali coast.
Five suspected pirates in one of the boats were arrested; the second boat escaped. France is a member of the European Union’s naval mission patrolling the approaches to the vital trade route through the Gulf of Aden.

Islamist factions shred alliance in battle for port city

Rival Islamist rebels battled in southern Somalia’s Kismayu port on Thursday, killing at least nine people and the fighting threatened to spread to other parts of the failed Horn of Africa state.

Witnesses said al Shabaab gunmen and their one-time allies from Hizbul Islam attacked each other at dawn. Hundreds of terrified civilians fled, while others cowered in their homes.

“The battle has started everywhere in the city. There are heavy exchanges of bullets and we can see militia taking part in the fighting,” resident Deqo Ali told Reuters by telephone.

Abdi Hallane, another local man, said he could see the bodies of six dead gunmen lying outside his home. Abdullahi Ali, a nurse, said at least three other people had been killed.

“They are using heavy weapons everywhere,” he said from the hospital, adding that at least 15 civilians were wounded.

The Kismayu confrontation had been brewing for days, and Hizbul Islam leaders had threatened to fight al Shabaab “everywhere” in Somalia if clashes began at the rebel-held port, which is a lucrative source of taxes and other income.

Security analysts say Somalia has become a safe haven for militants, including foreign jihadists, and Washington says al Shabaab is al Qaeda’s proxy in the country.

Relations between al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam degenerated last week after al Shabaab named its own council to run Kismayu, excluding all Hizbul members. Until then, the two groups had run the port in an uneasy coalition.

Western donors have long hoped hardliners in al Shabaab could be isolated by a deal between more moderate Hizbul leaders and the fragile U.N.-backed administration that could bring some stability to Somalia after nearly two decades of anarchy.

Clashes to spread?

President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed has so far failed to lure top Hizbul Islam figures to his side, but a feud between the two rebel groups could give his government some breathing space.

The fighting between al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam in the south raised the possibility of clashes between their gunmen in the capital Mogadishu, where they have battled together against Ahmed’s administration and African Union peacekeepers.

One senior Hizbul Islam commander in Kismayu, Sheikh Ahmed Islam, told Reuters that Thursday’s clashes broke out after al Shabaab gunmen attacked his group’s positions.

An al Shabaab spokesman said their forces would prevail.

“We will drive Hizbul Islam out of town within hours,” the spokesman, Sheikh Hassan Yaqub, told reporters at the port.

Fighting in Somalia has killed nearly 19,000 civilians since the start of 2007 and driven 1.5 million from their homes.

Maryam Maalin, a single mother-of-four in Kismayu’s Alenlay district, said Thursday’s fighting made it impossible to flee.

Rebels put conditions on release of French hostage

Islamist rebel group al Shabaab has demanded that the French government ceases to support Somalia’s government if France wants to secure the release of a French security advisor the group has been holding for two months.

Islamist rebels in Somalia on Thursday asked the French government to meet four conditions for the release of a French security advisor they have been holding for more than two months.

The militant group Shebab captured the French agent in Mogadishu on July 14. Another French agent, captured by a different Islamic group on the same day, escaped last month and returned to France.

“The young mujahedeen movement (Shebab) put several conditions to the French government for the release of their agent,” said a statement released to AFP and signed by the “high command” of the group.

The group calls for the French government to cease immediately any political and military support for the “apostate government of Somalia” and for the withdrawal of French personnel and advisors from the country.

It also calls for the withdrawal of African peacekeepers from Somalia, especially those from Burundi.

French security companies must also pull out of the country and the French navy from coastal waters.

More Britons travel to Somalia for ‘jihad’: report

Intelligence chiefs have warned British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government that Somalia is the next challenge in efforts to stem Islamic terrorism, a report said Sunday.

The officials have warned that the number of young Britons travelling to Somalia to fight in the war-torn country or take part in “terror training camps” is rising, the Independent on Sunday said, citing unnamed sources.

In particular, they are concerned about the number of people with no direct family connection to Somalia who are travelling there.

The number travelling there every year has more than quadrupled to at least 100 since 2004, according to the newspaper.

“I have seen figures that are not in the public domain that suggest there is an increasing flow of young Britons into Somalia,” said opposition Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, chairman of the counter-terrorism subcommittee.

“There is now a mixture of British people, from numerous backgrounds, who are heading out there and that is causing great concern.”

The Shebab, an Al-Qaeda inspired movement, is spearheading a three-month-old offensive to topple Somalia’s President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and has imposed strict Sharia law in areas under its control.

The US has expressed fear that the Shebab would turn Somalia into an extremist haven similar to the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan — which has been a top priority for the Barack Obama administration.

Pirates attack US helicopter

Pirates off the Somali coast are getting bolder with this evidence of a patrol helicopter under fire.

Marines from the USS Chancellorsville wanted to check the Win Far, a tuna boat captured in April and which the US 5th fleet suspects is being used as a pirate “mother ship”. It added heavy weapons were used during the attack.

Normally it sails under the Taiwanese flag with a crew of 30.

The ship was spotted just south of the town of Garacad, on the edge of the pirate-infested northern coast.

A flotilla of foreign naval vessels off Somalia has failed to quell the rampant piracy, which has affected one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes that links Europe to Asia, used by 20 000 vessels every year.